Ipswich Icons: ER & F Turner were at the forefront of technological changes in Ipswich

The Turner Two Roller Mill is a very early example of a horizontal rolling mill (1908)

The Turner Two Roller Mill is a very early example of a horizontal rolling mill (1908) - Credit: Archant

Each week, John Norman of The Ipswich Society looks at the icons of yesteryear in Ipswich.

The Rolling Mill is a modern version of the same machine

The Rolling Mill is a modern version of the same machine - Credit: Archant

ER & F Turner is a company started by Walter Turner in 1837, close to Ipswich Waterfront, he writes.

Turners were gainfully employed manufacturing agricultural machinery, steam engines and boilers throughout the 19th Century.

Their main customers were the flour millers and animal feed processors, until the 1870s manufacturing machinery to drive horizontal mill stones.

Milling had been carried out using wind or water power for millennia, and in the 50 years prior to 1875 by using steam engines. In the final years of the 19th Century things were changing and ER & F Turner was at the forefront of the new technology.

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Two major changes were being introduced, roller mills were replacing mill stones and electric motors were replacing steam engines. The Hungarians were producing superior flour, horizontal rolling mills could grind finer, more consistent flour and sieves removed any oversize detritus.

Mr J Harrison Carter (a milling expert) and Pierson Turner travelled to Hungary to investigate and on their return ER & F Turner produced a range of milling machinery. By 1888 ER & F Turner were designing and producing their own roller mills, mills that could crush seeds and beans for their oil, and maize, to create cornflakes and other breakfast cereal.

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For the next 20 years a considerable number of mills were equipped with Turners products, including engines and boilers, transmission gears and drive shafts: ie. a complete mill. However in 1908 Turners decided to discontinue the manufacture of steam engines and boilers to make way for the growing demands of the milling business. In addition to flour milling machinery the firm manufactured and erected the first complete maize flaking plant for animal feeds in this country.

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw, an immediate response from the company. Arthur Leggett (then works manager, later to become managing director and in 1932 owner) conceived the idea of a single purpose lathe for the accurate production of shell bodies. These were so successful that some 2,000 similar machines were produced for plants in all parts of the country.

After the war demand for manufactured products and agricultural machinery collapsed and all Ipswich engineers went through hard times. ER & F Turner however survived this difficult period and where able to purchase the site in Foxhall Road that had previously been Valley Brickworks. They began the lengthy process of moving their works from College Street to the new premises. The St Peter’s Work’s site included the famous Wolsey’s Gate, and on vacating the premises, the firm presented the Gate to the town.

In the company’s centenary year, 1937, they opened a new factory on the nine acre site in Foxhall Road and moved out of their remaining town centre sites. This offered the opportunity to re-plan production on the most up-to-date lines and to consolidate the firm’s electric motor production and milling machinery production onto one site.

In 1937 Turners supplied its first flaking mills to Weetabix Ltd. The outbreak of the Second World War found E R & F Turner well prepared to meet the heavy demands that were to be made for its products to contribute to the armaments programme. As well as making their turning lathes for shells, a quarter of a million electric motors were manufactured by the firm during the war years. They included motors for radar equipment, bomber flap operating gear, electrical transmitters and generating sets.

On May 1, 1969 the company of E R & F Turner Ltd was purchased by W G Gosling & Sons (Precision Engineers) Ltd, an Ipswich company founded by Walter George Gosling in 1925 and run at that time by his grandsons. The company selling electric motors remained at the Foxhall Road site and became Bull Motors Ltd. The business of E R & T Turner Ltd was relocated to Knightsdale Road, Ipswich.

Today, Christy Turner Ltd still manufactures E R & F Turner flaking mills, Miracle Mill hammer mills and Christy & Norris pulverisers and grinders from their Knightsdale Road site. Machinery for wood grinding (biomass), animal feed and breakfast cereals, recycling applications and mineral processing, are today sold around the world.

The company remains very proud of its long history and with the new designs of machinery and incorporation of new technologies, directors Mags Humphrey and Chris Jones are ensuring that the work begun by those early innovators 178 years ago continues.

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